1. “Miyazaki’s Beautiful Antiwar Dreams.” Dan Sanchez, for Medium, on war and peace in the films of Studio Ghibli.
“Nobody is more familiar with what a curse airplanes can be when deployed for evil than the Japanese. Airplanes dropped the canisters that burned their cities, the mines that starved their children, and the nukes that instantly made vast irradiated graveyards out of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — for the first time in history visiting solar-temperature hell upon human habitations, and hinting at mankind’s full capacity for suicidal madness. But their intimate familiarity with the ’cursed dream’ of airplanes also stems from the Japanese state’s own misuse of the great invention for its imperial dreams. This truth is intimated throughout The Wind Rises in the tension between the desire of several of the characters to simply build graceful, well-designed aircraft and the knowledge that their beautiful creations will be used to perpetrate the hideous horrors of war.”
2. “Deep Focus: Southern Gothic.” Nick Pinkerton on the Gothic tradition in the American South, exemplified in literature in the work of Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner, and how its long provided a rich seam of content for cinema.
“There had been tentative attempts to adapt Carson McCullers for the screen before, with mediocre results, but the Production Code Administration had to crumble before her oeuvre, steeped as it is in stifled and inchoate sexual yearning, could be done any justice. The downfall of the PCA also reinvigorated director John Huston, whose connection to American literature was profound, and who directed the finest adaptation of McCullers’s work to date. Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye, a knot of forbidden appetites and misplaced affection set on a Southern army base, boasts affecting performances from Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Harris, Brian Keith and Marlon Brando, whose ramrod-straight (and slightly queer) Major Weldon Penderton, seen smearing himself with cold cream, fumbling with dumbbells and vainly rehearsing normalcy in the mirror, is a sad ogre. To emphasise the film’s jaundiced atmosphere, Huston had the original release prints desaturated in post-production, giving DP Aldo Tonti’s work a golden burnish.”
3. ”Mad Men: The Quagmire Stares Back.” Over at EW, Jeff Jensen is thinking about the show’s end game.
“See You In The Funny Papers: Mad Men as metaphor for itself and the future of television and media. In the first episode of Mad Men, Don introduced himself with an alienating declaration that didn’t exactly portend his destiny as a beloved TV icon. ’What you call ’love’ was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons,’ the ad man explained to a woman in a bar. We now know the womanizer doth protest too much: As with most things concerning Don, the statement is ironic. The truth is found in the words and behind them. ’Don Draper’ really is that cynical, but the man behind the mask desperately wants to connect to something as invigorating and timeless as true love. The deeper irony of the line is that you can say the same thing about television. All shows, even Mad Men, aren’t created to be art; they’re made as marketing delivery systems, and/or as advertising to enhance or promote their networks.”
4. “Do cats really give better on-screen performances than dogs?” Mark Olsen, writing for the Los Angeles times, believes so.
“In last year’s Gone Girl, the cat shared between Ben Affleck’s Nick and Rosamund Pike’s Amy becomes something of a pawn in their shifting power dynamics, appearing in proximity to one or the other and somehow tipping the scales this way or that for audience identification between the couple. In a home video commentary track, director David Fincher noted how in the role of Bleecker, the real life cat Cheeto was great to work with because he could be put in a spot and would just stay there for hours. Part of what makes cats in real life and on-screen such compelling creatures is their slightly distant quality, the way in which they always seem to have a secret. In Gone Girl, one really wants to know just what that cat has seen, what it could spill about Nick and Amy behind closed doors. Few moments in movies last year were more quizzically enigmatic than when Nick led two police officers through the house after his wife’s disappearance and noted, ’That’s the cat’s room.’ The cat gets its own room?”
5. “Saul Bellow, Film Critic.” Richard Brody on a new collection of the novelist’s nonfiction.
“Bellow analyzes the 1961 film of Tennessee Williams’s play Summer and Smoke, which he sees as delivering a ’lesson’: ’that puritanical repression is an evil, that the instincts are not to be mocked, that the body is a sacred object and that sex, properly understood, is a form of holy worship.’ He contends that it’s ’this, the liberalization of opinion, that has become the dramatic event in the movie house. This liberalization has developed its own sort of piety.’ From a strictly political perspective, Bellow was correct, and, were he looking ahead to the present day, he would still be seeing clearly. Hollywood did, and, today, Hollywood and its independent tributaries do, what Bellow saw it doing. But Bellow, a moviegoer whose devotion to movies comes far behind his main enthusiasms, doesn’t look at the matter from the perspective of the art. Hollywood’s message-mongering came as a result of its own unfathomable success. Thanks to Hollywood movies, movies flooded America. The entire country became a Hollywood company town, and, within the space of a few years, a landscape hitherto dominated by vaudeville became the audiovisual playground that it still is today.”
Video of the Day: The trailer for Guillaume Nicloux’s Valley of Love, starring Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu:
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